Does masturbation increase testosterone levels?

Q:

Does masturbation increase testosterone levels?

A:

The short answer, as it turns out, is yes. Decreased sexual activity is linked to lower testosterone levels. This research is still developing, but it looks pretty promising.


Up until recently, studies have been rather conflicting. Post-orgasm, a slight decrease in testosterone levels occurs. This is the body’s normal and healthy response to sexual release. Testosterone is not a finite bodily resource and in response to releasing some of it through orgasm, the body is spurred on to create more of it. It’s about balance, you see. The more sexual activity you have, the more testosterone your body will begin to make naturally. All the more reason to get your jollies!


Most studies show that T levels altered by orgasm are so minor that there is zero scientific evidence that muscle mass would be altered by getting it on both in the bed and the gym. So, if the worry of not building muscle mass is what’s keeping you from nutting, take a pass on that notion.


To make a little more sense of this, it might help to explain how orgasm works within the many normal functions of the human body. Sexual arousal and desire take place within the brain and the somatic nervous system. The brain talks to the body, the body talks to the brain, and the brain responds. There are messages being sent back and forth constantly.


Needless to say, there is a lot going on in both the brain and body during the build up to sexual touching and orgasm. This is true of all sex, whether you’re having it alone or with a partner. The body progresses through the same cycle of desire, arousal, plateau, and recovery, whether you’re being stimulated with a mouth, hand, toy, penis, or anything else. Rosemary Basson’s model of sexuality is widely considered the most respected, taking facets of the traditional linear model of Masters and Johnson, and expanding on it to illustrate the complex functioning at hand. This article contains a helpful diagram of Basson’s model.


Sexual arousal and orgasm lead to the release of many neurochemicals throughout the body. These include oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine and serotonin. After a recovery period, the body’s hormone levels return to normal and balance is once again restored.


This cycle is important to note especially when when we’re talking about testosterone. People are (in my opinion) far too obsessed with the "male bodied" hormone.

High levels of sexual function have been long known to increase overall physical longevity and wellness. This is just the way it is! Denying orgasms in an attempt to be more "manly" is misguided at best.

There is this sinister idea, which comes from the pits of Meninist culture and Reddit, no doubt, that encourages men (in this case men, because these groups are certainly not queer-friendly) to abstain from orgasm and masturbation in order to build up their testosterone levels.


Let me be frank: this conclusion lacks an understanding into the ways male bodies function. An article in the World Journal of Urology looked at the testosterone levels of healthy young men who engaged in abstinence for 3 weeks and their levels post orgasm. The study found testosterone levels were slightly higher after abstinence. This makes logical sense, as testosterone is a sex-related chemical.


But please understand that your overall testosterone levels are not permanently decreased by orgasm. The body releases many chemicals (including testosterone) temporarily, in the same way as it does the neurochemicals mentioned above.


It’s very important to make something clear: attempting to “build up” your testosterone levels by denying yourself orgasmic release does not make you “stronger,” “more of a man,” or in any way superior to other men (and penis owners) who engage in regular sexual activity. You will not be better, manlier, or more alert by denying yourself the very natural human function of masturbation. In fact, there is evidence that shows you may wind up depressed, anxious, and facing a host of sexual dysfunctions such as ED and premature ejaculation.


Regular sexual release is widely considered to be good for heart health and stress management. Sex is healthy for you and choosing not to have it (alone or with another person) as means of self-improvement is not backed by science.


Go forth, have some sex (in whichever way you choose) and enjoy your life.

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Written by Gigi Engle
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Gigi Engle, ACS, CSE, CSC, is an award-winning feminist author, certified sex coach, sexologist and sex educator. As a sex educator, she promotes and teaches about pleasure-based sex education, masturbation and safer sex practices. Gigi’s work regularly appears in many publications including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Elle Magazine, Teen Vogue, Glamour and Women's Health. Her articles have been shared over 50 million times, with her top posts reaching over 150 million shares. In 2019, Gigi was named Journalist of The Year at the Sexual Freedom Awards. Her book, "All The F*cking MIstakes, A Guide to Sex Love and Life" (McMillian) is available wherever books are sold. 

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